The Unsung Heroes of the Olympics

I always look forward to the Olympics. While they are televised, I stay glued to the television set. When they are over, I am disappointed. Many television programs are a waste of time, but not the Olympics. What these young people achieve is amazing.

For a few days every four years, the world comes together. Politics and differences are largely set aside. A showcase of human endurance, the Olympic games give us something refreshing and inspiring. Everyone admires the dedication and accomplishments of the Olympic contestants.

Concentration usually centers on the top performers – those who carry home the gold, silver or bronze medals. However, every contestant has sacrificed time, money, and discipline for the opportunity to compete in hopes that they will bring honor to their country. More often than not, their families also sacrifice greatly. Many of the athletes have high hopes of receiving a medal, but all of them are aware that most contestants go home without one.

With few exceptions – those who are disqualified for one reason or another or are unable to compete because of injuries – the athletes run their race, swim in their meet, or participate with their team knowing that part of the reward is having made it to the Olympics in the first place. The best of the best of each country compete with the best of the best of other countries – all who have toiled, some for a lifetime, for the honor of the competition.

There should be no shame for those who walk away without a medal. Having become part of an elite group setting an example for the rest of us, all of these contestants should be proud that they were part of history. The fact that they finished their race is worthy of honor.

195773_206796702694102_6269155_nThe Olympic story that sticks in my mind more than any other is not of a gold medal winner – or even a silver or bronze medal winner. I have heard it many times, often from someone giving a message of inspiration. In fact, it has been called “the greatest last place finish ever.”

In the 1968 summer games, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania secured his place in history, not because he won his marathon, but because he finished it. The race had been won over an hour before. Spectators were leaving the stadium. Those remaining were astonished as he made his way on the track for the last lap. Although he had fallen and been injured during the race and his leg was bandaged and bleeding, he did not let that stop him. When he reached the finish line, those left in the stadium rose and applauded. Asked why he had not quit, he said, “My country did not send me to start the race; they sent me to finish the race.”

Honestly, I had to research to discover that Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia was the one who won that race. It was John Akwari’s story that made the impression on me. What courage it must have taken for him to continue to run through injury and pain. His finish – and his attitude – spoke louder than most sermons. Don’t give up. Finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

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